Sunday, 22 November 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 21.11.09

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the dearth of ex-City players playing in the top flight of English football but this week Nick Cook alerted me to one playing in the French top flight who captained his country to the World Cup finals this week. In 2003 French-born Algerian Yazid Mansouri impressed City’s manager Gary McAllister during a trial and signed on a year-long loan from French club Le Havre. His lack of experience of the English game was exposed at first but he worked hard and won a place in central-midfield alongside Moroccan Youssef Safri. Just as he began to look a reasonable player his decision to feature for Algeria in the African Nations Cup in the New Year upset the club and his loan contract was terminated. He now plays for Lorient in France’s Ligue 1 and has been a big factor in the small town club’s survival against the odds in the top division in the last three seasons. On Wednesday Algeria clinched their place in South Africa with a famous 1-0 win over arch rivals Egypt in a play-off game in Sudan.

Martin Ross wanted to know the team line ups and match details of the away game at Stoke in 1985 when City were left to get nine points from three games to overhaul Norwich and avoid relegation. A flu epidemic at Easter had caused City to postpone several games and they had to rearrange three games after the official end of the season. The first of the three games was played on the eve of the FA Cup final, at Stoke’s Victoria Ground. The teams lined up as follows:-
City: Ogrizovic: Butterworth, Pearce, Hibbitt, Kilcline, Peake, Bennett, McGrath, Regis, Gibson, Adams. sub Gynn (for Hibbitt)

Stoke: Fox: Bould, Hemming, Maskery, Dyson, Berry, Heath, McIlroy, Painter, Saunders, Beeston sub Chamberlain (M) (for Saunders)

Stoke were already relegated having won only three games and gained a record low 17 points. As a result the crowd was a pitiful 6,930, with almost half of that number following the Sky Blues. The game was of a very low standard and riddled with mistakes and a goal from either side looked unlikely until Cyrille Regis’ header hit George Berry’s arm after 66 minutes. Stuart Pearce smashed the spot-kick home to send City’s fans delirious but six minutes from time the referee evened things up by awarding the home side a penalty after Regis was adjudged to have fouled Paul Dyson. Up stepped Ian Painter to strike his penalty on to the underside of the bar and away to safety. City’s 1-0 victory was the first of the three crucial results that ensured safety. The team went on to beat Luton 1-0 and Everton, the newly crowned champions 4-1.

Alex Auchterlonie from Bristol wanted some information for a City-supporting work colleague who retired last week, presumably for a speech. His specific question was: who was City’s leading scorer in the 1969-70 season? The answer is Neil Martin who, during that momentous season that saw the Sky Blues finish sixth in the old First Division and qualify for European football, scored 14 league goals and 1 in the FA Cup, John O’Rourke was second with 11 goals and Ernie Hunt third with nine. In the 12 league games that Martin scored City never lost.

Someone from Galower Builders sent me an email asking the question: which Coventry City players played for England in the 1970s? The answer is none. Only four Coventry City players have represented England at full level whilst playing for the club.

Reg Matthews (5 caps in 1956), Danny Thomas (2 caps in 1983), Cyrille Regis (1 cap in 1988) and Dion Dublin (3 caps in 1998).

Monday, 16 November 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 14.11.09

Gregor Rasiak’s fast goal at the Ricoh Arena for Reading two weeks ago prompted several people to ask if it was the fastest goal in a City game at the new stadium since the move in 2005. Rasiak’s goal was timed at 27 seconds and beats the record held by Clinton Morrison by 10 seconds. Clinton scored in 37 seconds against Ipswich last season and other players who have netted fast goals are:-

Scott Dann (City) 58 seconds v Birmingham (2008-09)
Paul Peschisolido (Derby) 64 seconds v City (2005-06)
Elliott Ward (City) 75 seconds v Nottm Forest (2008-09)

The fastest ever goal by a visiting player is believed to be Dwight Yorke’s 13 second effort for Aston Villa at Highfield Road in September 1995 (Villa won 3-0). The record for the fastest ever goal by a City player at home is held jointly by Eddie Brown and Gary McSheffrey. Brown’s 12- second effort against Reading in 1954, was equalled by Gary in a League Cup game against Colchester in 2002. One second outside the record is Youssef Chippo’s 13-second stunner against Barnsley in 2002.

Next Saturday Crystal Palace come to the Ricoh and will attempt to win at the ground for the fifth successive season. Their four visits to the ground have resulted in victories (4-1, 4-2, 2-0 and 2-0) and their former player Chris Coleman will be doing everything in his power to stop this dreadful run. Checking the history books I believe Palace would have to win this season and next to equal the all-time record set by Aston Villa. Villa won six consecutive games at Highfield Road between 1993 and 1999, beating the record held by Manchester United (five wins between 1992 and 1997) and West Ham (five wins between 1982-87). City overcame all three hoodoos before they left the Premiership in 2001.

Kevin Ring enjoyed the articles about the late Terry Bly and reminisced about the famous City game at Peterborough in 1964 (Terry had left City by this time). The Monday night game at London Road was the penultimate game of the Third Division championship season and the two promotion places were still in the balance. A win for City was almost essential for them to stay in contention but despite being roared on by 12,000 followers they lost 0-2. Kevin recalls arriving at the ground with his father only to find the gates locked. His recollection was that City fans broke down one of the gates and piled in, as he and his dad did. City have only played at Posh once since, on the night of 11 September 2001, the day of the attacks on New York’s twin towers. It was Roland Nilsson's first game in charge, and Kevin got talking to a steward who had been on duty that night in 1964 and was still working. He told Kevin that the police had instructed that the gate be opened to avoid ugly scenes and he got to see the game. Kevin thinks that the crowd that night (26,307) is still Posh’s record crowd. Sorry to disappoint you Kevin but Posh had several larger crowds in the early sixties when ground capacities were so much larger (terraces, less segregation and no police limits). They were a renowned FA Cup side back then and had 28,000 plus crowds against Aston Villa and Sheffield United and then 30,000 plus v Arsenal and Swansea in 1965. However I am fairly confident that the City game in 1964 is still a record league crowd at the ground and, of course, will never be bettered now that the capacity is down to around 14,000.

The Former Players Association goes from strength to strength and now has 152 members, the latest being Sean Flynn who played for the Sky Blues between 1991-95 and now runs a caravan park in Cornwall. The Association is planning to revamp its website ( and is seeking a volunteer to advise it on the optios available and help update it on a regular basis. Anyone with a suitable background interested in helping the Association out should contact me via email.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

JIM'S COLUMN 7.11.09

Steve Mokone pictured with George Raynor, City's manager in 1956.

James Hunt wrote to me last week wanting to know more about Steve ‘Kalamazoo’ Mokone, Coventry City’s first ever black player in the 1950s. Not only was he the first black South African to play first-class football in England but also the first to play outside his native country. Although he only played five games for City his story is an amazing one that has been the subject of two books and a film.

There was a real buzz in 1956 when Mokone arrived at Highfield Road. He hailed from Doornfontein and played for Home Stars FC, also appearing for the Natal Province XI and the South African Bantu XI- the highest honour at the time for a non-European in the country. He wrote to City for a trial after seeing their name in his local paper and Charles Buchan, the legendary Sunderland, Arsenal and England player, put up £100 for his fare. It took the South African authorities almost a year to issue Steve with his passport. ‘Kalamazoo’ as he was nicknamed had wonderful dribbling skills and devastating pace. His touch and trickery was something rarely seen in Division Three and sadly were not appreciated by the club’s management at the time. He played just four first team games and one friendly for City, scoring one goal before a disagreement over the long-ball tactics with manager Harry Warren saw him given a free-transfer. I have heard stories of how, after training at Highfield Road, Mokone would lay bets with Reg Matthews, City’s England international goalkeeper, that he could score penalties against him, and usually won handsomely.

He joined Dutch club Heracles of Almelo, a small town near the German border, and in the 1957-58 season he helped them win the championship of Division 3 B and was voted player of the season by the fans. He played for Heracles for two seasons becoming a local legend, even appearing in a friendly game against Santos of Brazil for whom Pele appeared. There is a street named after Mokone in Almelo and one of the stands in Heracles’ Polman Stadion is also named after him.

In 1959 he tried his luck in the Football League again and joined Cardiff City, then a Second Division side. He played only two games for the Welsh side, including a 3-2 win over Liverpool when he scored the opening goal. The club tried to force him to play through an ankle injury and Mokone refused; he was not selected for the first team again. Next stop was Barcelona who loaned him out to Marseille. He never appeared for either club but in the south of France he ran a small factory manufacturing ‘Mokone’ football boots. In 1961 in a spell with Barnsley, he made a solitary appearance.

He married South African Joyce Maaga in 1961 and after a year in Rhodesia they moved to Italy where he had a brief period with Torino. In one match he scored four goals against Verona and was hailed as the new Eusebio (then the top African player in the world).

In the mid 1960s he moved to the USA and became a mature student, ultimately gaining three degrees and qualifying as a Doctor of Psychology. Mokone was arrested - and reportedly brutalised - by police in 1977 on a charge of credit card fraud which Mokone says was fabricated. A day after his release, police arrested him and charged him with assaulting his wife. Mokone was found guilty and served nine years in jail. He has maintained his innocence all along. Journalist Tom Egbers later discovered evidence that South African authorities had asked the American CIA to bring Mokone, who had been increasingly political in the US, to heel. After leaving prison – where he ran the library and the football team – he took up his psychology again before retiring with heart trouble in 1992. Now aged 78 he lives in Virginia, USA and is on the waiting list for a heart transplant. In 2006 he was inducted into the South African Sports Hall of Fame.

My statistics on the number of players Coventry City have used since they were relegated in 2001 caused fellow historian Paul O’Connor to point out the number of debutants in each of the nine seasons.



















He says: ‘With an average of over 17 per season (excluding this season as I expect more yet!) it truly demonstrates what a revolving door we have had. What is most compelling is that 2002-03 and 2003-04 (the truly awful McAllister seasons) saw the two highest seasons for debuts apart from 1919-20 (when City started from scratch and were thrown in at the deep end). To throw in the likes of Mackey, Noon and Bates and hope they swim was awful and thankfully Isaac Osbourne lived to tell the tale.’

Paul continues: ‘To put it in context, across City’s Football League history since 1919 there is an average of 10 debutants per season, so there has not been a single season below that average since relegation. It is not surprising that we have performed so badly.’

JIM'S COLUMN 31.10.09

With the arrival of the two new loan signings, Gary Madine from Carlisle and Chris Hussey from AFC Wimbledon, the discussion in the pub before last week’s game was about the number of players City have used since they left the Premier League. It’s a perennial discussion and with eleven debutants in League and Cup already this season any thoughts that the revolving doors at the Ricoh would seize up with lack of use have been forgotten.

I was tasked with coming up with the number of players used, the number of loan players used and how many of the players used since 2001 are still in League football.

In the eight and a bit seasons since the drop to the second tier in 2001, City have used 173 different players, an average of almost 20 new faces a season. Of those 57 have been loan players but that excludes players who subsequently signed a contract. The numbers of loanees has dropped appreciably in the last five seasons from a peak of 11 in 2004-05 (the Peter Reid/Micky Adams season) to seven the following season, five in 2006-07, then two in each of the next two seasons and this season’s four. If as is expected Hussey and Madine are signed on permanent deals in January this season’s total could drop to two. As the quantity has dropped the quality, it could be argued, has risen with the last six loan players, before the new pair, being Jack Cork, Patrick Van Aanholt, Jordan Henderson, Lee Sawyer, Zavon Hines and Kasper Schmeichel. Of these six only Sawyer has been a bad loan, although he got little chance to show us what he could do.

On to the interesting part. Of the 173 players who have appeared in the nine seasons, 30 are still on the club’s books (or like Michael Doyle on loan). Of the remaining 143 who have left the club in that period, 89 (or 62%) are either retired or no longer playing league football. The full analysis is as follows:-
Premier League 9
Championship 17
Leagues 1 & 2 21
Scottish League 7
No longer playing 30
Total 143

More detailed analysis reveals that a number of the players ‘still playing’ have appeared very infrequently and could never be classed as regulars. For example the Premier league nine are (Chris Kirkland, Stephen Warnock, Scott Dann, Henderson, Hines, Gary McSheffrey, Calum Davenport, Marton Fulop and Andy Marshall). Only the first two have been regulars although Henderson and Scott Dann look set to become regulars and four of the nine were loanees at City.
Amongst the 17 playing in the Championship there are some outstanding players who hold down a regular place in a good team, for example Jay Bothroyd, Louis Carey, Stephen Bywater and the perennial Dele Adebola. But conversely there are a number who rarely get a game for various reasons like David McNamee at Plymouth, Leon McKenzie at Charlton, Stern John at Crystal Palace and Ian Bennett at Sheffield United. The conclusions to be drawn from these statistics are that footballer’s careers generally go downhill after playing for the Sky Blues and that the club’s recruitment policy over the last nine seasons has been based on short term objectives, often it can be said, for valid reasons. The large turnover of players is not unique to Coventry City and many other clubs have seen swathes of new players every season. Short termism is so prevalent in the modern game and the huge turnover of managers, who want to ring the changes after arriving at a new club, does not help matters.
A new book out soon unearths new information about the early days of the football club we know today as Coventry City. One of my fellow Coventry City historians, Lionel Bird, had painstakingly researched the early days of organised football in the city and the formation of Singers FC, the works team that ultimately became CCFC. Following his revelation that Willie Stanley, a Wolverhampton man, was a driving force behind Singers football team, Lionel has documented the development of that team into Coventry’s premier football team between 1883 and 1898. I am looking forward to receiving my copy and I am sure it will fill a previously under-researched gap in the history of our great football club.
The book, entitled ‘The Vocalists after the club’s first nickname, is published shortly and all proceeds will go to the Sky Blues Youth Academy.